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Strewwwth, it's a coolie in the red centre!

Community Highlights Oceania Strewwwth, it's a coolie in the red centre!

Mad dogs and Englishmen... book a tour in the centre of Australia at the peak of their summer. But wait, what's this? Cloud, rain?! In the scorched red desert? Who'd've thunk it!

The fringes of a cyclone which had hit Darwin in the north with floods meant Alice Springs was unusually cool at just 26c (just a week earlier it had been 45-47c). So although it was gloomy it was also a bit of a blessing. Quite ironic really, because we considered not going to the centre due to extreme summer temperatures (and the millions of flies that this brings).

Alice Springs didn't make a great first impression. Arriving late afternoon and under grey clouds, it looked like a pretty sad, drab, scruffy place with a large indiginous population, some bogen locals and a tonne of graffitti. Our motel on the edge of town also looked a sorry site. We were only thankful we were here for such a short time before heading off on our camping tour. The 3 day tour covered the three main sights; Uluru, Kata Tjuta and King's Canyon.

Uluru
We were up at 5am, cripes! Our guide, Simon, seemed friendly and the tour (max numbers - 21) only consisted of 7 people, result! There's no getting away from it, we're unsociable insular types who much prefer smaller groups!

Along the way from Alice Springs to Uluru we had a couple of photo stops, one being the imposing Mt Conner, which is actually larger than Uluru. I loved seeing glimpses of the rusty orange-red earth through gaps in the silvery-green grass clumps, as if the land was bleeding.

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You have to jump if you're a backpacker, it's the law

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No photo manipulation, it really is that red

We were excited to see the rock for the first time - there is a calm and serene feel to the area, and Uluru itself does feel pretty special. The cultural centre was interesting and provided information on the Anangu - the western desert people and custodians of this land - and Tjukurpa, their traditional law, which they live their life by.

The Government returned the land to the aboriginees in 1985 with a condition that they leased it back on a 99 year basis to be managed jointly between the Anangu and national park authorities. There was another condition - that was the public contined to be allowed to climb it - the government fearful that tourists would stop coming if they weren't able to. Although you can therefore still officially climb Uluru (via a steep incline with a chain), the wishes of the Anangu are that you do not. So we didn't.

As it wasn't blisteringly hot (at times we even had fleeces on!) we were able to complete a large section of the base walk - about 7 of the total 10k walk. Close up it's quite different to how you might imagine it. The surface is rough and almost flaky in parts. Underneath, the rock is actually grey and gets its red colour from the high iron ore content which oxidises when in contact with the environment. Effectively it's a bit rusty.

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We thought this look a bit like an aboriginal profile!

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Sadly the weather conditions didn't give us those iconic bright reds set off by a brilliant blue sky, so our photos of Uluru are a bit flat in the light we had.

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We also weren't rewarded with a sunset nor a starry night sky to camp under which was a real shame. On the upshot, as it rained throughout the evening, our guide managed to secure us the laundry room in camp for us to sleep in our swags. Other groups tried to come in after we'd all gone to bed but had to sleep in partial cover outside... the early worm...

It wasn't the best night's sleep with noise from lots of other tour groups, and we'd found two redback spiders very close to our sleeping quarters just before we went to bed which set me on edge a bit. They don't kill you, but are considered one of Australia's deadliest spiders and deliver a powerful nerve poison which causes severe pain and some other unsavoury symptoms. Sweet dreams!

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The redbacks were under the sinks... shudder!

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We did, however, make it up for sunrise and although it wasn't a 'wow' one, it was still a pretty sky and a special moment. The photos don't really capture the oranges and purples that we saw.

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Kata Tjuta
Also known as The Olgas, Kata Tjuta is a rocky formation created millions of years ago when two tectonic plates collided. Kata Tjuta means 'many heads' and, like Uluru, is a sacred place. We actually preferred walking around these to Uluru - the views were more far reaching and rewarding. Again, sadly the grey/white skies didn't do it justice but the 3 hour Valley of the Winds walk was really enjoyable. Enough flies to still warrant our fly nets, but with temps still only mid-late 20's they weren't insufferable.

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Some of our group taking other group shots

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Our small group... 'Simmo' our Aussie guide in the middle, between Ant and Daniel (German) on his left. Tomoni (Japanese), Amanda & Tamara (Dutch), Maya (Welsh) and me

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Ha ha!

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Kata Tjuta and Uluru in the same pic

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Wild camels spotted... did you know Australia is the only country in the world to have a wild camel population?

Our base for the second night was Kings Creek Station. We were treated to a camp fire (after we'd collected the fire wood from the bush!) and a bbq with tender 'roo steaks. The camp was way better than the first night, we had it to ourselves and we all had beds within tents. It also felt like a much more authentic bush camping experience with more nature and dingoes howling in the distance.

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Simon went scorpion spotting and came back with one really quickly. He saw three all within a minute's walk to the camp...! He also mentioned a couple of large centipedes which give a nasty bite, I spotted one on the way to the bathroom. Is there anything in this country not out to get you?!

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Tatty on the outside but fine on the inside

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Eeek

Kings Canyon
Up at 4.30am! Lordy. This is more like boot camp! We were walking by 6am and had completed the entire canyon rim walk by 9.30am. Just in time for... errr... lunch then?

It was pretty good, the strata and colour of the rocks everywhere you looked made for some impressive landscapes. The terrain and rocks undulated all around from weather erosion. There were a couple of hang-over-the-edge opportunities which everyone took up except me due to my fear of heights. And yes, we were having lunch back at camp at 10.30am!

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The people on the other side really give it some perspective

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I could barely look...

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The view they had

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Not too many flies, but still pesky all the same

Then it was a long 5.5hr drive back to Alice Springs.

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We drove through clouds of flying ants... we didn't see them at the time but they made for difficult visibility for Simon

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It's art!

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Despite getting probably the equivalent of one good night's sleep over the two nights and three very early starts, it was a fun trip with an excellent guide and a really nice small group.

And in the sunshine the next morning, the motel didn't look so bad afterall...

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This featured blog entry was written by Galavantie from the blog GlobalGalavantie.
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By Galavantie

Posted Sat, Feb 08, 2014 | Australia | Comments